Themes from the consultation with our stakeholders

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1 Themes from the consultation with our stakeholders This is a working document which is subject to change as Governors discuss and explore the themes. The detailed report from the independent consultant summarises the key themes raised by our stakeholders. From the report, and reviewing the individual responses, it is clear that the school community has a range of views relating to these issues. This paper notes the themes and potential issues and aims to summarise how these could be addressed in a move to Academy status. The paper aims to present a balanced view, within the context of the proposal to move to Academy status and so also identifies remaining issues and concerns. Parents, staff, students and other stakeholders will have the opportunity to express their views on the school s specific proposals to become an Academy and it is hoped that this paper, with its focus on issues, is helpful. Further information can be found in the Report to Governors on the future Status of Cotham School dated and in the Questions and Answers document available on the school s website. Themes Potential issues How these could be addressed Remaining issues/concerns Reduced accountability by a move to Academy status. Governance, management and leadership Cotham would have a governance structure that seeks to preserve the current role of parents, staff and the community in the make up of the Governing Body. Further details are set out in the Report to Governors on the future Status of Cotham School dated Governors are now engaged on further work on this. Rather than the four governors appointed by the Local Authority at Cotham, an Academy is allowed only one. If a complaint is raised and it cannot be addressed satisfactorily by the school, the next step will be to approach the Young People s Learning Agency (YPLA) rather than the local authority. There is no equivalent of the local authority ombudsman for parents to appeal to if they feel that a school has not followed policies and procedures. Role of a Sponsor for the Academy Outstanding schools that convert to become an Academy ( Converter Academies ) do not need a business sponsor. (This arrangement was required in the first type of Academies, brought in by the Labour government and related to failing schools.)

2 Use of freedoms that Academy status brings Community links Wider implications Succession Ethos Loss of links to the local community Detrimental impact on other Bristol schools In relation to governance, management and leadership, there are no particular freedoms offered by a move to Academy status. (See also curriculum and finance and funding below). Managing succession (of the Head, senior staff, governors) will continue to be an issue in an Academy, as in any school. The Cotham Charter sets out the vision and values of the school. These are likely to change in the future, influenced by different leaders and governors. The governance structure that we are hoping to put in place will ensure that this reflects the views of parents, staff and the community on an ongoing basis. Direct links would be maintained by continuing to have community governors. At a day to day level, a move to Academy status would not change the school s links to the community. Cotham s decision to become an Academy will not have any impact on the money available to other Bristol schools. This is because the government has already taken money away from all local authorities, based on their estimate of the number of schools which will become academies. Local authority Links with the Local Authority Bristol already has a large number of old-style Academies. They remain part of the education offered within the City and are included in Headteachers meetings. Cotham intends to continue to participate in these whatever decision is reached on the move to Academy status for Cotham. (See also section below on freedoms from using local authority services.) As an Academy, the school would still be subject to Ofsted inspections, have its results published in league tables and other measures of ensuing quality educational provision.. The memorandum and articles of association for the Academy will not bind future generations at the school. (But that should be a good thing, as the school will need to respond and change in the future.) Any changes have to be approved by the Charity Commission Becoming an Academy would mean that there would be no formal links to the local authority in terms of the provision of funding and support (although Cotham could still buy into local authority services see below).

3 Finance and funding Long term financial sustainability In local authority control, Cotham must manage its finances and balance the budget. The government has indicated that they intend that an academy should be no better or worse off than any government-funded schools As we are all aware, there is great pressure on public sector finances. Becoming an Academy would not protect the school from future cuts to funding. The Government has made it clear that they intend to fund all schools in a similar manner. Recent information on the proposed funding to post 16 education indicates significant cuts are planned. At the same time, ministerial statements state that the pupil premium will be quadrupled over the coming 3 years and be applicable Additional short term funding Freedom from using services provided by the local authority The short term financial benefits of converting to an Academy are reducing. (Until 7 th April, schools converting before 1 August 2011 would have received a higher amount.) Although the decision to become an Academy should not be made solely for short term financial benefit, it is true that the additional funding would soften the impact of a current financial position which is under pressure, in common with other public services. The school would value the freedom to obtain some services outside the local authority provision. Indeed, the school already buys in some services because the quality of provision is not good enough to meet our needs. At the same time, as an Academy, the school could still buy into local authority services if it chooses. The decision to buy local authority services or obtain them from other providers would be made on the same basis of value for money as we procure other services. to a wider number of students. The school and Governors are continuing to review the financial position going forward. As an Academy, the school would need to obtain additional services from other providers. The school has done some investigation of the likely costs of these services. If a decision is taken to become an Academy, more work will be needed to procure the services.

4 Staff Pay and conditions for existing and new staff If Cotham became an Academy, the pay and conditions of staff are protected for a limited period by TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006). The school has plans for an Employment Charter to seek to ensure that the pay and conditions of service for staff are clearly defined and maintained into the future. There is no intention for existing staff to re-apply for their jobs. Admissions Impact on admissions process In the same way as Local Authority schools, all academies are required to adopt clear and fair admission arrangements in line with the admissions law and the School Admission Code. When a school converts to an academy it becomes responsible for its own admission arrangements. It will involve periodic consultation and regularly publishing the academy s admission arrangements. A school that is currently non-selective cannot become selective if it converts to academy status. The governors and staff of Cotham School are committed to maintaining a mixed comprehensive school with a diverse intake from the local community. Curriculum, standards etc. What would be different for students in terms of the curriculum offer An Academy must teach the National Curriculum core subjects which are English, Maths and Science. Beyond that statutory requirement they are free to innovate. In October 2010 Cotham received the judgement of Ofsted Outstanding for its curriculum offer so clearly we do not anticipate immediate and radical changes. However, there are a number of areas where the school would welcome the resources to match the curriculum to the needs and aspirations A move to Academy status will not prevent the need to continue to manage within the funding we receive. It is likely that this funding will come under pressure in future years. This is already clear in post-16 funding. Some re-structuring of the curriculum will be needed whatever decision is taken on the future status of the school. Any changes to the curriculum would be made in a considered way; as such changes are made currently. Although Academies have freedoms from the national curriculum, it is unlikely that there will be no controls at all over how the school operates (and the school will still be subject to Ofsted inspections)

5 of its learners. Some specific areas that it would like to look closely at are: having the flexibility to make individual pathways through the curriculum, especially between 14-16, (for some students 13 or 14 GCSEs are too many); to look at introducing the International GCSE (igcse) in some subject areas. This is regarded as more prestigious, and harder, by some universities, and is likely to give some students an advantage when competing with students from the fee paying sector; whilst maintaining academic rigour in the curriculum. The school believes that the teaching of independence and skills for learning are critical to create lifelong learners and these need to be further incorporated into the overall offer; at post-16 the International Baccalaureate (IB) is thought to be a very well regarded course that would complement our A Level offer. Partner schools Relationships with partner schools and underperforming schools When a school is granted academy status it has to collaborate with other schools and support them in raising achievement. Cotham works in partnership with a number of schools and welcomes further collaboration. The school is in discussion with two primary schools regarding closer working. The relationship with partner schools in the post 16 centre will be unchanged in any move to Academy status. The more formal partnership envisaged by a move to Academy status would need to be properly planned so that there was no negative impact on Cotham students resulting from time spent on supporting partner schools. Environment Traffic congestion, parking problems As no change is planned to admissions should Cotham become an academy, there should be no additional traffic generation. The school is still intended to be a local school, serving the needs of the local community.

6 Timing Decisions are being taken too quickly Consultation approach Lack of clarity around the consultation approach Governors have been exploring different aspects of the decision on the future status of the school since September In December 2010, the date of September 2011 was proposed as a target date for transition to Academy status. That date continues to be kept under review. Following the decision to apply for an Academy Order, the school will now receive 25,000 from the government to fund legal/financial advice to support the transition. The school would not become an Academy until the Academy Agreement/Funding Agreement is signed. If the legal and financial issues could not be resolved satisfactorily, the agreement would not be signed. Further information on the approach to consultation is provided in the document on the website. In the first phase of consultation, Governors wanted to get a wide range of views from stakeholders in advance of any decision to move to Academy status. Following the Governors decision to apply for an Academy Order, further communication and consultation will take place with parents, staff, students, partner schools etc. Further information will be made available on the website to allow stakeholders to be able respond to the question 'should Cotham become an Academy?'. Following the decision on 6 th April, further work is now needed on the legal and financial issues of a conversion to Academy status. The Department for Education s guide time for resolving such issues is four months. The final decision to sign the Academy Agreement/Funding Agreement would be taken by the Academy Trust, which may or may not be the same body as the previous Governing Body. (As indicated above, further work is now being undertaken to develop an appropriate governance structure for Cotham if it were to become an Academy.) A vocal part of the school community may still wish to have more input into the Governors decision-making process.

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